Government plans to modernise and reform primary care progress as more than one thousand general practices sign up for digital upgrades.
Modern upgrades for increasing problems
As part of a £240 million investment, more than one thousand practices have signed up to make the switch from analogue systems which can leave patients on hold and struggling to book an appointment – to modern, east-to-use digital telephones designed to make sure people can receive the care they need.
It is expected every practice in the country will have the new system in place by the end of this financial year helping put an end to the 8am rush – a key pillar of the Prime Minister’s Primary Care Recovery Plan, to improve patient access to care.
Patients will be able to contact their general practice more easily and quickly – and find out exactly how their request will be handled on the day they call. If their need is urgent, they will be assessed and given appointments on the same day. If it is not urgent, appointments should be offered within two weeks, or patients will be referred to NHS 111 or a local pharmacy.
The upgraded system will bring an end to the engaged tone and will see care navigators direct calls to the right professional and the use of online systems will help provide more options for treatment and care.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We are delivering on our promises to make access to GP appointments easier while boosting staffing numbers. With the support of NHS England, general practices, pharmacies, and dental surgeries, backed by significant investment from the government we will bring an end to the 8am scramble for appointments”.
“I’m delighted that over one thousand general practice surgeries will soon benefit from high tech designed to make booking an appointment as easy as possible for patients for years to come.”
Practices on older systems look set to receive an average investment of £60,000 to move onto digital phones combined with updated digital tools and support for the transition. Primary care is the way most people access the NHS, and the government is looking to modernise the way patients contact their GP surgeries, to improve satisfaction and to ensure that everyone has easy access to their GP
The benefits of an updated digital system
Successful care navigation can help direct 40% of requests more effectively and speeds up appointments for those who need them. The government has already started training care navigators, with funding for 6,500 places –the equivalent of one member of staff per practice who can then pass on the training to colleagues.
They will help assess, prioritise, respond, and assist with calls and ensure those who want to see a named GP or preferred member of staff can do so and those happy to see a duty doctor can also do so.
Minister Neil O’Brien said, “We want to make sure we are making the best use of skilled professionals such as dental hygienists and pharmacy technicians while at the same time freeing up dentists and pharmacists to carry out vital services. The reforms we propose today are crucial in achieving this.”
“We have so much skill and experience within our surgeries and pharmacies and by better using technology, transferring services and cutting bureaucracy we will have a more efficient and effective service.”
Dr Kiren Collison GP and Interim Medical Director for Primary care, NHS England, said: “GP teams are already treating record numbers of patients, but we are determined to improve access further which is why it is fantastic that all GP practices will be upgrading their telephone systems to make it as easy as possible for patients to contact their practice.”
GP surgeries are poised for a digital transformation using technology from the current day. The switch from analogue systems to digital telephones seems like much needed investment, in a world that uses digital telephones constantly. It seems crazy that this change has not been made yet. These new upgrades signify a stride towards streamlined appointments and optimised care.